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Wednesday - September 07, 2011

From: Collingswood, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Pollinators, Butterfly Gardens, Wildlife Gardens, Shrubs
Title: Shrubby options for a bird lover in New Jersey
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


Could you please recommend a native shrub to NJ that grows to about 3-4 feet, is very low maintenance, does well in afternoon sun and is also something the birds will like? Thank you.


When looking for plants that attract birds, realize you are not limited to plants that produce berries alone. Songbirds and baby birds primarily eat insects. Birds with larger beaks eat nuts and seeds as well as berries and a tubular blooming flower will attract humming birds. When you put all of this together, pretty much any plant can, and will attract birds. The trick to have birds feel comfortable enough to stick around so you can enjoy them, is to provide clean water and shelter. The water can be as easy as a little dish you leave out on a stump or a rock and shelter can be as simple as a dense bush. Bird lovers can go crazy with all sorts of fun accoutrements to their yard but really as long as you can make a peaceful and safe place for birds to find food, water and shelter, you will have birds.

Here is a list of some of the best bird enticing plants that we recommend for New Jersey. We came up with this list by going to the recommended species section of our web site and clicking on the state of New Jersey. Once you have the list of all of the native plants recommended for your area you can click on a plant that interests you and read all about it, including who, uses the plant for food and nesting.

We will list the plants segregated by: insect loving birds, who will seek out plants that are good larva plants for butterflies and moths, by birds who look for seeds, nuts and berries, and lastly good plants that attract pollinators which include hummingbirds.

Insect eaters:Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly-everlasting) is 1-3 ft tall and fairly bushy in appearance. The flower heads are made up of pearly white bracts and are a favorite food plant for painted lady butterflies.

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) This bright orange tubular flowered plant is a larva staple for many butterflies as well as hummingbirds. Although this plant would not be considered a bush we are including it as it gets thicker and thicker each year.

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea) is a must for any yard in New Jersey. This is a true shrub about 3 ft tall. A larval food for many butterflies and moths as well as attracting seed loving birds, including turkeys and quail! So you don't want to cut any of the plant back when it is producing seed and in fact think about that with all of these suggestions, with any seed producing plant you will want the plant to go to seed fully to get the most bird food out of the plant.

Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower)  is a perennial flower but like the Asclepia it will grow into a bush like formation of plants, fast. This plant grows thicker as it grows older but it will also spread. It has a nice height of 3 ft, which is unusually high for a spreading ground cover. Blue Mist attracts many larva as well as nectar butterflies and moths, which in turn attract songbirds.

Moving on to the nut, seed and berry plants we have to include Ilex verticillata (Common winterberry) Unlike other hollies, winterberry does not have sharp pointy leaves and doesn't grow to be 60 ft tall. Winterberry is roughly 6 to 10 ft tall and can stand pruning now and then to stay smaller. It is deciduous but does provide the bright red winter berries that birds adore. 

Lindera benzoin (Northern spicebush) is a deciduous shrub that usually is around 6 ft tall. Spicebush provides a fruit that the birds love and is a great larva food for the spicebush swallowtails, which in turn attract all sorts of birds. Spicebush is a good choice for protecting nests in the spring. This bush likes the shade but produces more fruit if it has the afternoon sun.

For plants that attract Humming birds Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm) is again not a bush but a flower that grows in a dense bunch and becomes thicker every year. Scarlet beebalm is a nectar food for hummingbirds as well as butterflies. 

There are plenty of other options to choose from, so spend some time with the database and see what you can find. If you can squeeze in some grasses and let them go to seed, as well as a burst of sunflowers in the summertime you will have birds aplenty.




From the Image Gallery

Asclepias tuberosa

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Blue mistflower
Conoclinium coelestinum

Northern spicebush
Lindera benzoin

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

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